Originally created 06/16/04

Startup is Georgia's best finishing act



ATHENS, Ga. -- David Perno's game plan for guiding Georgia through the College World Series begins with a simple objective: Get Will Startup into every game.

Startup, Georgia's All-Southeastern Conference closer, has seven wins and 10 saves in 30 appearances, including two saves in the Bulldogs' super regional win over Georgia Tech and two wins in the preceding NCAA regional in Athens.

Georgia's coach doesn't want to stray from a winning formula now that the Bulldogs are one of eight teams still playing for a national championship.

"He's been in there 30 times, and over half he's either won or gotten the save," Perno said Tuesday as Georgia held its final workout at Foley Field before flying to Omaha, Neb., Tuesday night.

"With that stat, if he's in there we're going to have a chance to win the game. ... If things go our way, Startup could appear in every single game."

Georgia (43-21) plays Arizona (35-25-1) Friday at 2 p.m. EDT in its first game in the double-elimination College World Series.

There is little concern of Startup tiring in Omaha.

While some closers are used only in the ninth inning, Startup pitches two, three or more innings at a time. In his 30 appearances, all in relief, the 6-foot-1 sophomore has pitched 73 innings and allowed only 49 hits.

In Georgia's decisive game of its regional in Athens, Startup beat Clemson with 3 2-3 shutout innings and was named MVP of the regional.

"He has a rubber arm," said Georgia catcher Clint Sammons. "He always has been like that. His arm comes back pretty quick."

Overall, Startup is 7-2 with 10 saves in 13 tries and a 2.34 earned run average.

Due to the sophomore's mastery of hitters and endurance, Perno calls Startup "Magic Man."

"He's been on it all year; it's just a matter of us getting him in the situation," Perno said.

But even Magic Man can't be in two places at the same time, and Startup has a huge potential conflict looming on Saturday, June 26. The day before the College World Series championship game is also the day Startup's older brother, Drew, will be married in Cartersville.

Startup's father, Don, is the music minister at the family's church and will perform the wedding ceremony. While Startup wants to be at the wedding, the family wants to be with him in Omaha.

"My dad is flying out to Omaha; he would not miss this for the world - but he might have to miss it for the wedding," Startup said.

Drew was a senior shortstop for Shorter College in 2003.

If Georgia is still in the tournament on June 26, Startup says he will be in the wedding on audio tape.

"Me and my brothers and my dad recorded a song for the wedding," he said. "So I'll at least be there in that way."

Added Startup: "As of right now, Drew just wants us to go as far as we can."

Startup says even his brother's wedding can't stand in the way of the chance to win a national championship.

Startup was a freshman on last year's team that missed the postseason, and his ability to lock down late-game situations has been a key to the Bulldogs' unexpected surge. Georgia has won 22 of its last 28 games.

"Last year was very disappointing and now this ballclub has turned it around," he said. "I have no bigger dream in my life than winning the College World Series."